Monthly Archives: March 2011

BACK “ON THE FLOOR” AND ON THE CHARTS

In 2005, Jennifer Lopez released her fourth studio album, “Rebirth.” Ironically, it marked the death of her mainstream recording career for the rest of the decade. Six years later, J.Lo’s career is experiening a true “rebirth” thanks in large part to American Idol.

Since January, Lopez has been able to completely change her public perception. Once widely thought of as a demanding diva, Lopez comes across as compassionate and surprisingly knowledgeable on American Idol. Obviously being seen by millions of people each week is going to raise your public profile. But, J.Lo’s been able to capitalize on that in ways past judges haven’t. (It also doesn’t hurt that she’s currently featured in campaigns for L’Oreal, Venus and Macy’s and is basically everywhere you turn).

American Idol isn’t the only reason Lopez is finding success on the charts again. Paula Abdul couldn’t revive her music career in 8 seasons on Idol, while J.Lo’s been able to do it in a matter of months. That may be because she isn’t releasing an 80s rehash featuring Randy Jackson. Instead, J.Lo teamed with super producer RedOne to create a familiar, but updated sound with “On the Floor.” Taking cues from her past hits, “Waiting for Tonight” and “Play,” “On the Floor” is both a radio and dancefloor ready hit. The track also samples “Lambada” and features Pitbull, capitalizing on J.Lo’s Latin roots and guaranteering some radio play with one of the hottest rent-a-rapper’s at the moment. It’s hard to believe that less than two years ago, Jennifer unleashed “Louboutins” on the world. For those of you who (understandably) don’t know, it was a song about shoes probably 99% of her fanbase couldn’t afford, thus making it completely unrelatabe. “On the Floor” hits all the right marks and that’s why it’s her first top 5 hit in 8 years.

Since moving from Epic to IDJ, it seems that J.Lo’s team knows to play to her strengths. They could have easily secured a performance slot on Idol, but instead they premiered the “On the Floor” video during the results show. While I think J.Lo is a great entertainer, she rarely sings live. This could have created a backlash, seeing as how she’s judging people actually singing on that very same stage week after week. They played it safe and still reaped the benefits of having millions hear the song on Idol. That exposure obviously carried over into YouTube views as well, logging more hits than Britney’s “Hold It Against Me” and Gaga’s “Born This Way.” While I’m sure J.Lo will take the stage at some point this season, she’ll have more than a few weeks of judging to truly establish her credibility before she lipsynchs to a prerecorded vocal on the Idol stage.

J.Lo’s also back to be publicly recognized as J.Lo, at least musically. All the cover art for her new album and singles features the popular nickname instead of “Jennifer Lopez.” While this may not seem significant, it relates back to a time when Jennifer was at her peak. The “J.Lo” era was undoubtedly her most successful and when she began to reject that nickname, she came off as pretentious and old. J.Lo is the cool, hip popstar. Jennifer Lopez is the actress and mother. It’s fine to have a separation, but it’s not fine to demand to be called “Jennifer Lopez” and reject a nickname your fans are attached to and use in an endearing way. J.Lo brings Jennifer down from her superstar pedestal and instantly makes her more relatable, especially to a younger demographic. It’s not surprise the J.Lo moniker is back.

Last, but not least, Lopez also doesn’t look a day over 30, so it’s not like she lost any time at all. “I’m Into You,” her second single from “Love?,” premiered this morning. Once again, it pairs Lopez with a popular rapper–this time, Lil Wayne. J.Lo’s always shined on midtempo rap collaborations and this sounds like it’ll cover the bases at urban radio, where the dance/pop of “On the Floor” doesn’t have as much appeal. Now, we just have to get Ja Rule back in the game and it’ll be like 2001 all over again.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comebacks, Successes

SUGARLAND: A DOUBLED-EDGED SWORD

Two of the smartest people in the music industry reside in Sugarland. Not the town, but the group, consisting of Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush. Sugarland has built their career breaking down the boundaries of country music and just last week they announced an upcoming performance with Rihanna at the ACMs. Yes, Rihanna. Yes, at the Academy of Country Music Awards. Most country music acts wouldn’t even entertain the idea of collaborating with an R&B/pop artist whose current single is titled “S&M.” But in Sugarland, the rules have always been a little different.

Sugarland has always flirted with other genres of music. Whether it was collaborating with Bon Jovi on “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” or Beyoncé on “Irreplaceable,” Sugarland has expanded its fan base without completely alienating country music fans. They’ve even been known to cover “…Baby One More Time” and “Party In the U.S.A.” on tour. Their cover of “Like a Prayer” (with Little Big Town) has even gone viral, with Perez posting it just last week. This is something most country artists wouldn’t even attempt. It may be because they’re “purists” or because they’d fail at it. Sugarland’s never taken themselves too seriously and their live show has always been about having fun. This allows them to try different things without totally pissing off the ever-fickle country music audience.

There’s no doubt in my mind their performance at ACMs with Rihanna will be a hit on the net and introduce them to a whole new demographic. Sugarland’s built their fan base by collaborating with other popular artists from many different genres and that can be seen at their shows. At every Sugarland show I’ve been to, I’ve seen at least one fan wearing a Bon Jovi t-shirt (even though most of the time it’s my mom). That’s why Sugarland has been headlining successful tours since their second album, while a slew of country acts are stuck opening up for the Taylor’s and Carrie’s.

While all this is great, Sugarland does have to be careful about straying too far from their country roots. “Stuck Like Glue” was a #1 hit, but “The Incredible Machine” hasn’t been one of their best sellers. Unless they’re looking to crossover (which, for whatever reason, they haven’t yet actively pursued) the album doesn’t really appeal to any audience in particular. The most country thing about the album is Nettles’ voice. I appreciate that they like to do different things sonically, but what would make them really special is the ability to merge the country storytelling of their earlier work with the pop/rock instrumentation of their new album. That’s what I’m hoping to hear on their next album and that’s what could keep Sugarland in the good graces of country music, while really bringing them to the next level of crossover success.

Leave a comment

Filed under Successes